Thai Jazz, Korean Kang take different PGA success paths

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Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond lines up a putt during Friday's second round of the PGA Championship

Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond lines up a putt during Friday's second round of the PGA Championship (AFP Photo/Patrick Smith)

Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond is loving the crowds and intense atmosphere of the PGA Championship while South Korea's Kang Sung is trying to chill out after winning his first US PGA title.

The unheralded Asian contenders find themselves unexpectedly among the 36-hole leaders in this week's major showdown at Bethpage Black, both on two-under 138 after Friday's second round.

World number 72 Jazz, a 23-year-old from Bangkok, missed the cut in last year's British Open in his only other major start and earned this one for his ranking.

"It's the first event I did in America with my own ranking, so that feels pretty good to be here," he said. "You feel like you belong."

Jazz has been soaking in the New York atmosphere on and off the course.

"I go out with my friends. Take me out to see all of Manhattan, what's it all about," Jazz said. "So many people. And the buildings. It's like a (concrete) jungle.

"Kind of a wow moment. Maybe I didn't get over that. I didn't feel the pressure on the golf course."

Jazz holed a 23-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth and a 16-footer at the par-3 14th on his way to a 68, with Long Island supporters yelling Jazz's name, or at least trying to.

"My first time ever getting a crowd like this, shouting my name. I don't know how to react to it. This is my first time for the shouting," Jazz said.

"They give me some really funny names. I try not to remember it. They did try. It didn't come out right.

"It's great, coming out here, interacting with all the crowds. It's crazy. I love it. I just want to remember everything."

Jazz's real name is Atiwit but he goes by the nickname given him by his music-loving father.

"I like all kinds of music," he said. "Maybe the name helps."

- Kang delays celebration -

Winning helps too and Kang collected his first US PGA victory last Sunday at the Byron Nelson tournament. Kang would have been higher but closed with back-to-back bogeys.

"I don't think I'm really fully back from last week yet, so I'm just going to try to rest," Kang said.

He's shunning the nightlife to better focus on Bethpage.

"I played really well last week so I really try to be as calm as I can be, because I have to play another event this week," he said.

"I have next week off so I can have a celebration next week. I pushed it back a little bit because I'm really trying to concentrate on playing this week."

His friend Danny Lee, a South Korean-born New Zealander also on 138 after 36 holes, is happy to see Kang's hard work pay off.

"It's not just the last week. He has been playing good all year," Lee said. "His long game has gotten a little bit better than what it used to be. And he has always been a good chipper and putter so I'm not surprised."